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Full Council Meeting - 27th June 2005

Town Hall , Bideford at 6:30pm

MEETING OF THE COUNCIL

TOWN HALL, BIDEFORD ON MONDAY, 27TH JUNE 2005 AT 6.30 PM

NOTICE OF MEETING

John van de Laarschot
Chief Executive
Torridge District Council
Riverbank House
Bideford
Devon
EX39 2QG

DX 53606 BIDEFORD
Tel : Bideford (01237) 428700
Fax : Bideford (01237) 478849

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Members are requested to turn off their mobile phones for the duration of the meeting.

A G E N D A

1. -

Apologies for absence.

2. -

15 Minute period for Public Contributions.

3. -

To consider correspondence or other business especially brought forward by the direction of the Chairman.

4. -

To answer questions submitted under Procedural Rule A5.

5. -


...

Housing Option Appraisal

Report of the Strategic Director (Community & Services) and Head of Housing Management enclosed. (Pages 1/25)

To include presentations by:

(a) Strategic Director (Community & Services)

(b) Head of Housing Management

(c) HACAS Chapman Hendy (Consultants to the Council)

(d) Heart of England (Independent Tenants Advisor)

(e) Chair of the Tenants Panel

6. -

Petitions (if any)

PART II

(Closed Session)

Items which may be taken in the absence of the public and press on the grounds that exempt information may be disclosed.


MINUTES

PRESENT: Councillor A G Gould (Chairman)
Councillor T Sillifant (Vice Chairman)

Councillors J Allen, A I Bewes, R D Bond, H M Bone, G Boundy, Mrs M Brown, Mrs S E I Bushby, P S Christie, S E L Clarke, P R Collins, J W E Cowle, A J Eastman, A Eastwood OBE, Mrs P A Ferguson, R H Hicks, F Howard MBE, R E Johns, Mrs C L March, Mrs S A Mounce, J Morrish, Mrs P J Paddon, W W Pillman, J Rawlinson (left meeting 8.10pm), D H Shadrick, P J Sturges and R M M Tisdale.

ALSO PRESENT: Mr Colin Woods of HACAS Chapman Hendy, Mr Clive Webb of Heart of England and Sue Dunsford Chairman of the Tenants Panel.

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors H R Barton, G C Broyd, D J Daniel, E J Davies, L S Ford and W G Isaac.

46.

PUBLIC CONTRIBUTION

The following public contribution was made.

Mr W H Smith of Appledore addressed the meeting in connection with the Housing Option Appraisal; the decision of the Authority not to grant aid the ring and ride scheme; the write off of uncollected Poll/Council Tax and the money taken from reserves in respect of the Council's budget.

47.

HOUSING OPTION APPRAISAL

Councillor Mrs M Brown declared a personal interest in this item (Tenant of the Council).

Councillor P S Christie declared a personal interest in this item (Member of Bideford Bridge Trust).

Councillor Mrs P A Ferguson declared a personal interest in this item (Occupation of Property in the Current Housing Stock).

Members received the joint report of the Strategic Director (Community and Services) and the Head of Housing Management which detailed the work undertaken by the Option Appraisal Steering Group, and gave the reasons for their recommendation that Torridge District Council should pursue transfer of the Council Housing stock and associated housing management assets to a Housing Association.

The Strategic Director (Community and Services) introduced the topic by advising that Housing Option Appraisal was a requirement of Central Government, and that every Council and Housing Association Home was required to meet the Decent Homes Standard by 2010. The appraisal of the options for the future ownership and management of the Council's housing stock had to be concluded by July 2005 and in this respect Members were advised of the rigorous exercise conducted by the Authority in considering the following four options:-

(a) Stock retention.

(b) Stock transfer.

(c) Arms length management organisation.

(d) Private finance initiative.

The Strategic Director (Community and Services) referred to the deciding factors in making the choice, and confirmed that any approved option would need to be submitted to Government Office South West for confirmation, who would also examine the decision making process.

In response to questions submitted by a Member, the Strategic Director (Community and Services) confirmed that the Authority would be subject to a Housing Inspection on the 15th August 2005, when it was hoped to achieve a star rating. She also explained that since Authorities such as North Devon District Council had chosen their housing option, Local Authorities now had to have regard to the Decent Homes Standard and Rent Restructuring.

The Council then received presentations from the following:-

(a) Mr Phillip Thomas (Head of Housing Management, TDC).

(b) Colin Woods (HACAS Chapman Hendy - Consultants to the Council).

(c) Clive Webb (Heart England - Independent Tenants Advisor).

(d) Sue Dunsford (Chairman of the Tenants Panel).

The presentation from Mr Thomas, the Head of Housing Management, related to the assessment, evaluation and process followed in reaching a conclusion to the Housing Option Appraisal.

Members discussed the letter received from the Chair of the House of Commons Council Housing Group, which referred in particular to the pressures being placed upon local authorities to transfer housing stock, to which the Head of Housing Management responded.

In response to other questions details were provided of the percentage of returns received to the tenant's consultation exercise, and the percentage of these returns supporting stock transfer.

Mr Woods of HACAS Chapman Hendy, the Council's Consultant, was then invited to address the meeting. Mr Woods reminded Members of the 4 options available, and pointed out some of the key differences. He advised Members that a survey of the Council's Housing stock had been conducted, and provided information in support of the overall financial assessment of the options.

Mr Woods concluded his presentation by advising that in the case of Torridge a stock transfer seemed the most viable option.

Mr Webb of Heart of England, the Independent Tenants Advisor was then invited to address the meeting.

Mr Webb confirmed that he was present to provide the tenants' perspective on the Housing Option Appraisal. He referred to the very good response from tenants to the postal survey, and provided statistical comparisons of the information gathered with similar exercises carried out for other local authorities. Reference was also made to the impact of the Housing Options Appraisal video, which had been seen by 75% of the tenants.

Members noted that the results of the survey conducted by Heart of England showed that 62% thought stock transfer was a good idea.

It was agreed Members wanted the best option for their tenants, which needed to be sustainable in the future. In this respect one Member aired some of his concerns, and sought confirmation that tenants would be in receipt of all necessary information before they were asked to vote on any option.

The final presentation was given by Sue Dunsford, Chairman of the Tenants' Panel. She advised of all the hard work carried out in respect of the Housing Option Appraisal over the last 18 months, and urged Members to support the recommendation of the Option Appraisal Steering Group with regard to the transfer of the Council Housing stock to a Housing Association.

The Strategic Director (Community and Services) concluded the presentations by referring to the matrix on page 4 of the papers circulated at the meeting. This showed that only the stock transfer option would meet the Decent Homes Standards and be sustainable into the future, and that this conclusion was also supported by the financial assessment, and the majority of the tenants.

Members then debated the report before them and the presentations received.

Councillor Mrs M Brown thanked the Tenants Panel for all their hard work, and moved the recommendation in support of stock transfer contained within the report of the Strategic Director (Community and Services) and the Head of Housing Management. This was duly seconded by Councillor Mrs P J Paddon.

In accordance with the Constitution Members called for a recorded vote on this recommendation.

For: Councillors J Allen, A I Bewes, R D Bond, H M Bone, G Boundy, Mrs M Brown, Mrs S E I Bushby, S E L Clarke, P R Collins, J W E Cowle, A J Eastman, Mrs P A Ferguson, A G Gould, R H Hicks, F Howard MBE, Mrs C L March, Mrs S A Mounce, Mrs P J Paddon, W W Pillman, D H Shadrick, T Sillifant, P J Sturges and R M M Tisdale (23)

Against: Councillors P S Christie, A Eastwood OBE, R E Johns and J Morrish (4).

Thereafter it was;

Resolved:

(1) That the conclusion of the Housing Option Appraisal Steering Group that the Council pursues transfer of the ownership and management of its Council Housing stock to a Housing Association be approved, and that consultation commence with tenants leading to a formal ballot.

(2) That the Government Office for the South West be informed that stock transfer is the preferred option of the Council.

(3) That Officers develop a project plan for stock transfer and a subsequent report on this be presented to Members.

The meeting commenced at 6.30 pm and ended at 8.20 pm.